Katie Stew

A rich, simmering blend of my favorite things

Italian Winter Cocktails


Winter is wrapping up in parts of the country, but things are still pretty chilly here in Seattle.

A few weeks ago, I went with some of my girlfriends to an Italian Winter Cocktails class at The Pantry, which is the cooking school associated with Delancey, the pizzaria associated with Molly Wizenburg, author of the famous food blog, Orangette. (Whew! That’s a lot of association.) I’ve been reading Orangette for years and followed the opening of Delancey. I was excited when they started offering cooking classes and decided that would be a perfect girl’s outing.

So one cold winter day we went to Delancey and stood in line outside until it opened. We were told that people did that and it was true. We had delicious pizzas and decided to share a bottle of wine, which in retrospect is not the best idea ever when you are about to go to a cocktails making class. (and an explanation of why my photos aren’t very good) We wander in a little bit wobbly and find ourselves learning about and drinking four new cocktails.

It was a fun night.

We learned the recipes for four new drinks. We learned that one of my friends doesn’t like Italian Cocktails and that apparently the Italians like their drinks bitter. I found most were better with a little simple syrup added in.

The first was my favorite of the 4. The Sicilian Sling.

Sicilian Sling

This drink was light, summery, and herbal tasting. It would work for winter or all year round. I tried to make these a few weeks ago, but couldn’t find all the ingredients. I’ll be trying again soon.

Sicilian Sling
Ice cubes
1-1/2 oz Averna
1/2 oz cherry brandy
1/2 oz Benedictine
1/2 oz lemon juice
Chilled club soda
1-2 fresh basil leaves for garnish

Fill shaker halfway with ice cubes. Add first 4 items. Shake well.

Fill highball glass 3/4 full of ice. Strain mixture through a fine strainer into the glass. Top with club soda. (This next part was my favorite.) Gently smack the basil leaves against the palm of your hand to release the essential oils. Rest them on top of the drink.

That’s right, smack that basil around!

Apparently, the difference between a Sicilian Sling and a Singapore Sling is you use gin instead of Averna and pineapple juice instead of lemon. Sounds delish.


Next up is a Negroni. This was probably the best known of the drinks and my least favorite. It was too bitter for me, but very pretty.

Ice cubes
1-1/2 oz gin
1-1/2 oz Campari
1-1/2 oz sweet vermouth
Orange slice for garnish

Fill shaker halfway full of ice cubes. Add the liquor in equal portions. Shake well and strain into glass. Garnish with an orange twist.


The third drink was a Cynartown. I quite liked this one, but only after I had them sweeten it with some simple syrup. It smoothed out the bitterness for me and made it tastier. I’d recommend you make the actual recipe, taste, and adjust for your own tastes from there.

Cynar is actually an artichoke liquor, which sounds gross, but was really nice and herbal and rich tasting. It is pronounced “chee-nar”.

2 oz gin
3/4 oz Carpano Antica (A type of sweet vermouth)
1/2 oz Cynar
1 sour cherry for garnish
(optional- simple syrup)

Fill shaker halfway with ice. Add liquor. Stir well. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with cherry.

Taste and add simple syrup if needed.

Hanky Panky

The final drink was a Hanky Panky. I wrote in my notes “lovely! -maybe b/c last one.”, which might say something about my state of mind at this point. But I seem to recall enjoying this one and it was certainly pretty. My notes on this one are not as thorough as some of the previous ones. Big surprise.

(Though there are amusing notes on this page, as this is the point when we decided to try and see if we all remembered the full cursive alphabet or not. We didn’t. We polled nearby classmates for help. I’m pretty sure we were the life of the party.)

Fernet-Branca is a very bitter, herbal liquor. The orange twist is a long peel of orange without the pith. This one certainly needed simple syrup for me, but again, I would make it, taste it, and decide for yourself.

Hanky Panky
1-1/2 oz gin
1-1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz Fernet-Branca
Wide orange twist for garnish
(optional- simple syrup to taste)

Fill shaker or mixing glass halfway with ice. Add liquor. Stir well. Strain into cocktail glass. Twist the orange twist over the glass to release the oils into the drink and either drop it in or drape it on the rim of the glass.

So there you go. I suggest curling up in front of a fireplace and sipping on one of these magical concoctions this winter. They might be a little bit bitter, but sometimes you need a little bitter to appreciate the sweet. Maybe the Italians are onto something.


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